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25 make Startup Challenge 2016 semi-final list

12 Jan 2016

Improved contact lenses, a 'marijuana breathalyzer' and a camera no larger than a grain of sand are among the technologies vying for a share of $25,000 at Photonics West event.

Organizers of the increasingly popular SPIE Startup Challenge event held at Photonics West have short-listed 25 entries for this year’s prizes.

The semi-final line-up, which includes a seasoned optics and photonics executive alongside novice entrepreneurs from Europe, Asia and North America, again features a large number of biomedical applications.

Among those technologies and applications are a “marijuana breathalyzer” based on Raman spectroscopy, an optoacoustic monitor for newborn babies, contact lenses that correct for presbyopia, and a variety of wearable devices to measure heart rhythm, pulse rates and hemoglobin levels.

Freeform optics headset
Outside the realm of biomedicine there are new ideas for manufacturing silicon nanowire arrays, a lightweight virtual reality headset based on freeform optics, tiny cameras said to be no larger than a grain of sand, and an optical module that is able to convert standard microscopes into holographic imagers.

Intriguingly, one of the entrepreneurs pitching for the $10,000 first prize is Michael Cumbo from the flow cytometry specialist Eta Diagnostics. Previously the president of IDEX Corporation’s optics and photonics divisions – still widely known by the CVI and Melles Griot brand names – Cumbo’s new venture is looking to develop a massively parallel version of the analytical equipment for rapid, early detection of cancer cells.

After hearing all the semi-finalists pitch on February 16, the Startup Challenge judging panel will select six finalists. The final, which is open to all Photonics West attendees, will take place the following day, with the top three pitches all winning a cash prize.

The prizes, including $10,000 for first place, $5,000 for second, and $2,500 for third, are funded by founding partner Jenoptik. Additional support comes from lead sponsors Axsun Technologies and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and supporting sponsors Edmund Optics, Trumpf, Open Photonics, and Knobbe Martens. Edmund Optics also will award the first-place winner $5,000 in products.

The full run-down of semi-finalists is:

• 3D nanoscale imaging (Leslie Kimerling, Double Helix LLC): imaging at the single-molecule level inside the individual cell
Advanced Silicon Group (Fatima Toor, Advanced Silicon Group Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, University of Iowa): low-cost technology to manufacture silicon nanowire arrays in a controllable process, with applications in next-generation solar PV, biosensors, batteries, and more
Bold Biometrix, LLC (Kyle Miller, Northwestern University Center for Device Development/ Bold Biometrix, LLC): monitoring patches to help patients and their physicians understand their true blood pressure by recording trends over a seven-day period
• Circulating tumor cell diagnostics (Eric Strohm, Echofos Medical): a diagnostic instrument that uses sound waves to listen for the presence of cancer cells in a patient's blood sample
• ColorSpritz (Timothy Jones): “part art, part science, totally cool.”
Diagnostic anSERS, Inc. (Sean Virgile): a "marijuana breathalyzer" to answer the question, "How high is the suspect right now?"
Disease Diagnostic Group (John Lewandowski): “What if we told you we could save one million lives every year with just refrigerator magnets and a laser pointer?”
Eta Diagnostics, Inc. (Michael Cumbo): massively parallel flow cytometry for fast, efficient analysis of rare biological cells and particles
• Extended depth of focus contact lens (Juan Rodriguez): a presbyopia prescription that allows focus from far (infinity) to close (reading) and in-between
FabriXense (Zeev Zalevsky): smart clothing providing active, continuous measure of biomedical parameters such as heartbeat rhythm, breathing and blood pressure without the need of having tight contact between the fabric and the body of the wearer
• Guaks: virtual reality you can wear (Carmen Lastres, Limbak): a 1/2 weight and volume VR headset keeping all performance features, with freeform optical system as key enabling technology
• Holographic module for microscopes (Paolo Pozzi, Holobe s.r.l.): patented technology allowing conversion of standard microscopes in cutting-edge multiphoton spatial light modulation microscopes, with a simple, plug-and-play device
• Leverage the Future of Electronics (Supriya Jaiswal, Astrileux Corporation): revolutionary advanced optical technologies that enable high-volume manufacturing of next-generation integrated circuit chips at 14 nm and smaller at significantly less cost
Multicore Photonics, Inc. (Darren Engle): drawing together cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, and the Internet of Services to monitor physical processes, communicating and cooperating with each other and with humans in real time
• Optoacoustic Patient Monitoring (Graham Randall, Noninvasix): using light and sound for the safe, accurate and noninvasive monitoring of fetal welfare during labor and delivery
• Patented Neural Stem Cells Harvest (N. P. Lui, OPER Technology Limited): innovative neurodegenerative disease therapy, able to safely and specifically harvest neural stem cells from the brain of a live subject by strategically designed magnetic nanoparticles, allowing repeated neural stem cell extraction from the same live subject without raising ethical issues nor threatening life
PixelEXX Systems, Inc. (Renee Carder): cameras the size of a grain of sand with 62% more pixels to capture the critical details
• Reflective displays for wearables (Peiman Hosseini, Bodle Technologies): ultrahigh-resolution, colorful, flexible reflective displays for wearables
Rubitection (Sanna Gaspard): a low-cost optical diagnostic tool for hospitals, long-term care facilities, and home-care agencies
Solchroma Technologies, Inc. (Roger Diebold): electroactive polymer-driven displays for sunlight-readable, large-area digital signage
TheWhollySee (Dan Yanson): a system for marking and remote identification of multiple objects and people with high position accuracy in real time
Think Biosolution (Shourjya Sanyal): mobile application PulseR allows users to take a video of the face using the smartphone camera to visualize blood flow in real time as well as measure heart rate and respiratory rate; Android application QuasaR allows users to measure their heart rate, respiratory rate, blood-oxygen level, and blood hemoglobin content using an armband
Vibronix, Inc. (Pu Wang): MarginPAT system is a photoacoustic/ultrasound tomography system that can provide highly sensitive intraoperative margin assessment during lumpectomy within 5 minutes
• Wearable Vital Sign Monitor (Jyh-Chern Chen, Taiwan Biophotonic Corporation): finger-free wrist-worn pulse oximeter that measures pulse rate and blood oxygen with a micro-structured reflective optic sensor

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